Operation Iraqi Freedom, as dubbed by the American military, is about more than the sole superpower battling a dictatorial regime. A centuries-old clash of cultures and religions - despite President Bush's affirmations to the contrary - has boiled over once again. This is not an openly religious war, but the presuppositions of Just War theology developed over a millennium and a half are locked in battle with the worldview of Islam, which sees no separation between government and religion. Even in the use of suicide bombers, disinformation and the (mis)treatment of prisoners the worldviews and resultant ethical systems clash. Add to this the West's own moral ineptitude borne of years in the wasteland of post-Christian, postmodernism and you have people cheering those who would cut their very throats.
Even before the war kicked off in Iraq, a scan of the headlines is all one needed to see the global confusion surrounding the conflict, its players and their motives. Around the world, demonstrators denounced President Bush and the United States as aggressors and some even equated Bush with terrorists. This is straw-man argumentation without the argument if ever there was such. In what way does a legitimate Commander-in-Chief acting in defense of both his nation and world order resemble the covert murders carried out by members of parasite shadow-groups who live off of the free nations they strike?
This editor traveled to Peru recently, during which time hostilities in Iraq began. Conversations with European tourists there revealed a certainty in the worldwide press's version of the "facts" that belied the notion of openmindedness to which these world travelers ostensibly subscribe. One German professional lectured me on how the American press and government had been leading us poor, hapless American citizens inexorably down one path: toward supporting the war. He obviously hasn't been tuning into the American media himself! A French fellow blithely regurgitated President Chirac's message that Iraq is "containable," and even had the gall to imply that U.S. interests might be about oil - as if our almost total lack of dependence on Iraq for oil and his nation's acute interests there were completely lost on him. But I have come to expect that facts alone have little to do with the popular sign-making and headline-writing of our day.
However, such views and the vitriol that often accompanies them are by no means confined to other cultures. At a "teach-in" last week, Professor Nicholas DeGenoa of Columbia University reportedly said, "The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus." (A reference to the Somali massacre of U.S. troops.) "If we really believe that this war is criminal...then we have to believe in the victory of the Iraqi people and the defeat of the U.S. war machine." Many would consider this treasonous language.
How can one think of this war with any clarity - especially amid anti-war clamor that defies decency like that above? Is the conflict moral? It defies the nation-state vs. nation-state model upon which so much of Just War theory is built, so what adjustments need be made? (The editor of World magazine encountered a group of anti-war demonstrators in Seattle recently who, when he mentioned Just War, immediately castigated him for minimizing war. They missed the entire meaning due to ignorance of so basic a concept!) What hope does post-war Iraq have of a representative democracy? The sheer numbers of protesters worldwide masks the complexity of the issues at hand. We hope you will take some time to go beyond heated rhetoric and painted signs to review our Special Focus.
Moral Clarity in a Time of War
Weigel laments the loss of moral understanding of the "venerable just war tradition," even by religious leaders who would be expected to guide us in times of war like these. "Moral clarity in a time of war requires us to retrieve the idea of the just war tradition as a tradition of statecraft, the classic structure of just war analysis, and the concept of peace as tranquillitas ordinis ('tranquillity of order'). Moral clarity in this time of war also requires us to develop and extend the just war tradition to meet the political exigencies of a new century, and to address the international security issues posed by new weapons technologies." He calls for and offers clarity regarding the moral discussion of war. Weigel continues, "There is a moral obligation to rid the world of this threat to the peace and security of all. Peace, rightly understood, demands it."
Professor Gene Edward Veith
The connoisseurs of cool reject morality in their own lives, but give moralizing lectures against the United States.
The Rule of Man
Democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East will take more than simply ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein's regime from Iraq—though that's a good start. Says one former diplomat, hastily held free elections—"sorry to say"—will bring only more despots to power. Building democracies in a part of the world plundered by dictators requires time and patience.
What Would Caesar Do?
Professor Gene Edward Veith
Accusations that America's President Bush is a "new Caesar," seeking to wantonly wage war for his own purposes meet the reality of contrasts between the two leaders' styles, proven motives and behaviors.
Book Review of The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat
Peter C. Meilaender
Scruton, says Meilaender, points to the fundamental reasons for the vast difference between the West and "the rest"--particularly Islamic nations: while the West, due to Christianity's view of The City of Man and the City of God, sees two separate spheres of influence in religion and secular law, Islam makes no allowance for such distinctions. This, in turn, sets up Islamic states for either totalitarianism or a subversion of the state altogether.
Terrorism and Islam
Professor Otto Helweg
Dr. Helweg, who studied Islam, classical Arabic, and the Middle Eastern culture while living in the Middle East for more than a decade, writes a straightforward article regarding the mindset of Muslims, particularly the terrorists among them. First, he describes the sharp differences in the worldview and culture of the West and Middle East, then briefly explains the effect that the Qur'an and other sacred writings have on radical Muslims. He disputes the characterization of Islam as a peaceful religion and concludes that attempts to stamp out the evil of terrorism are naive.
Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems
What makes an action right or wrong? Such a question is acutely relevant when discussing waging war, averting evil and righting wrongs, as in the case of a post-9-11 conflict with Iraq. The answer to this question, when asked of various ethical systems, helps sort through the maze of beliefs that muddy the ethical waters. A condensation of Erwin Lutzer's book Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems.
In Response to Terror
James Turner Johnson
Johnson, professor of Religion at Rutgers University, outlines a possible political response to the threat of terrorism that draws on the tradition of just war theory. He writes, "It is not necessary when thinking morally (or legally) about the use of force in counter terrorism to restrict such force to after-the-fact response to particular violent acts; nor is it necessary to deal with terrorist activities on a tit-for-tat basis, though the use of force would be justified in such cases. Let me be clear: a strategy that involves the use of military force to prevent terrorist acts is just and moral." Note: written previous to the events of 9-11.
The subject of the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages is a guaranteed topic when discussing Islam's relationship to Christianity. The Crusades were more complex than the simple and unfair invasion of Muslim lands by Christians often portrayed in history books. There was cruelty and conquering on both sides. Before dismissing this important part of history as a foregone atrocity perpetrated by Christians on Muslims, read this basic, balanced treatment.
How Does Your Worldview Fit?
John H. Stoll, Ph.D.
With all the rapidly changing events that are happening in today's world, is your worldview able to assimilate them, without disrupting your life? Written to help Christians in their faith, this brief newsletter copy from a well-rounded senior member of our human race challenges people of all worldviews to the basic test of livability--does your view of life and reality get you where you want to be or help you deal with where you already are?